A Turkish shepherd and his family have become the ‘guardian angels’ of a 19th-century Greek Orthodox church in Kerasounta, Pontos, protecting the religious site from vandalism.
The church was built in the 17th century about 45 km southeast of Kerasounta. At the beginning of the 20th century, there were around 800 Greek residents here, however, the village was destroyed in the summer of 1916 and its inhabitants were slaughtered by Topal Osman. Those who survived left in the autumn of the same year, with many settling in Agios Athanasios in Dramas.
According to reports, the church is adorned with rich iconography, a product of the Greek craftsmen who lived there and the faith of the parishioners that filled it.
For the last few decades, Adnan Zivali and his family have made it their priority to make sure they keep an eye on the Greek Orthodox Church, protecting its historical heritage from those who want to destroy it.
Zivali is a shepherd, whose grandfather settled in the area in 1938. The family has taken care of the church since 1940 and they have discouraged attackers who tried to steal and destroy it.
The 60-year-old man lives in this mountainous region along with his elderly father and leaves the area when the heavy winter falls. However, he returns all the time to check on the church.
Until now, Zivali and his family have done a great job protecting the Greek church and he says the state must now officially undertake the preservation of this Orthodox church, as it is an important Greek Orthodox religious site.